With just a week until deadline, Down teachers are braced for mounting frustration among parents scrambling for school places for their children in September – but fearing they won’t get their preferred choice.
Carney Cumper, vice principal at Killyleagh Integrated Primary and President of Ulster Teachers’ Union official, was speaking following the recent crash of the Education Authority website as parents rushed to get their children’s names onto enrolment lists before the deadline on January 31.
“Even though places are not allocated on a first come first served basis, parents’ fears are mounting that they won’t be able to get their children into the school of their first choice at all,” she said.
“In the past number of years we have already seen some areas where there just aren’t enough local school places and as the birth rate rises this is going to become an increasing problem.
“Just a couple of weeks ago new figures from the Department of Education showed a growth in primary school enrolments of around 3,000 last year.
“This isn’t a surprise. We have all seen the spike in pupil numbers coming since the birth rate went up a few years ago.
“However, it is the children’s misfortune that they’re entering the system at the most precarious time in the history of education in a generation as it teeters on near bankruptcy.
“Without adequate resources to provide the education our children deserve now, how will schools deliver that to 3,000 more?
“Children will have to travel further to get to school if their local schools can’t accommodate their growing numbers – yet how will that be funded when the EA is at the same time trying to cut its budget on school transport?
“The equations don’t balance and something will have to give. Teachers have been trying to square the circle for too long already but the scale of shortfall is proving too much for even them now – not to mention the impact the increased workload and stress is having on teachers’ well-being.
“Without our elected representatives making the decisions which need to be made for the safety and welfare of our children, the system is set for disaster.
“Fewer children will get into the schools they want and potentially face longer journeys to get to a school, with all the added expense for families and the EA which that will bring.
“It is a generation of children who will face the fall-out of the present political inertia.”